Vohimana in the hilly highlands of eastern Madagascar is a small reserve that may be a little adventurous to reach by foot.
Vohimana is located about 155 km east of capital Antananarivo, in Alaotra-Mangoro region. Thus it is only 25 km far from much visited national park Andasibe-Mantadia. You can easily do day trips from there to Vohimana. By 4×4, you need about four hours from Tana to Andasibe, and about 20 minutes more until Ambavaniasy. Taxis run here, too. Taxibrousse only stop nearby Andasibe and you are lucky if a driver stops at the reserve (and you probably paid the driver). To visit the reserve, in Ambavaniasy you make a turn from RN2 to the left on a gravel road.
Nearby some huts, you can park your car. Then it’s becoming a little challenging: You have to cross a river with surprisingly strong current, barefoot. Depending on river level, there might be days during rainy season when the reserve cannot be visited. Behind the river, you follow a small laterite path about one kilometer over some hills. Another kilometer has to be walked on railroad tracks (don’t worry, trains are rare over here) until you reach the actual entrance of the reserve nearby a decayed fabric for essentiel oils.
Information about the reserve:
The Vohimana rainforest covers an area of 20.82 km². The reserve was founded in 2005 by the non-governmental, French-Madagascan organisation L’homme et l’environment as an “experimental reserve”. Even then, the aim was to hand over the management of the forest to the local population, thus ensuring the sustainable protection of the area through ecotourism and environmental protection. This step was taken in 2012. Since then, the municipal association “Merci Vohimana” has been responsible for practical local administration. Currently three local guides are working in Vohimana, three other employees take care of the restaurant and bungalows. Altogether about 40 people from Ambavaniasy generate their livelihood almost exclusively through the reserve. The income of the reserve is used not only for the salaries of the employees but also for the further development of the village, for example to finance bridges.
At the entrance to the reserve, one of the trails begins, for the second one follow the railway tracks in the opposite direction over a railway bridge and through a tunnel. There are four circuits covering waterfalls, viewpoints and rainforest. The paths are partly very narrow, partly well accessible. In one of the waterfalls you can even swim – despite the cool water temperatures a gorgeous experience in the middle of the rain forest. Admission prices are low at around 10,000 Ariary (just under € 2), and overnight stays are just as cheap.
Vohima is close to Maromizaha in the eastern highlands, where it might get rather cool at night with temperatures around 15°C and below. During daytime, climate is comfortably warm. The whole year this region is rather humid, so be sure to carry rain clothes and a warm sleeping bag with you.
Vohimana itself has a small campground without electricity but with running water. Those who like it a bit more comfortable can rent one of five rustic bungalows at the entrance of the reserve, including a view of the rainforest. Electricity is available when the solar panels work. A kind of open restaurant serves registered guests, cooked by the women from Ambavaniasy.
If you don’t mind a very rustic overnight stay, you can also stay in the dormitory, a very simple sleeping facility for a maximum of 20 people. All others will find accommodation for every budget in Andasibe, 15 km away. There are also restaurants and small shops. The reservation for overnight stays can be made via L’homme et l’environment by e-mail or telephone. The NGO then passes the applications on to the local people.
Flora and Fauna:
Vohimana is a magical rainforest mainly known for its high diversity in amphibians and reptiles. Here you can meet the largest chameleon of Madagascar, Calumma parsonii parsonii. The animals from this area are also called “yellow giants”. In addition, one can discover the colorful Calumma gallus in the dense fern, a very small chameleon in which the males wear a brightly colored, long nasal process. One of the smallest chameleons is also at home here – Brookesia ramanantsoai. Along the river many frogs such as Boophis albilabris can be found – the area is one of the most amphibian-rich places in the world.
Those who prefer Madagascar’s lemurs will be able to observe red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer), diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema) and the famous Indri (Indri indri). A total of eleven species of lemurs inhabit the dense, fern and moss-covered rainforest. Plant lovers can discover a variety of medically used plants in Vohimana. The Madagascan sunset moth (Chrysiridia rhipheus) can also be found here again and again.
The way to Vohimana may be a little impractical, but the beautiful rainforest with its biodiversity is definitely worth a visit.